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Film and the Construction of Memory in Psychoanalysis, 1940–1960

  • Alison Winter (a1)


This paper explores the relationship between the medium of motion-picture film and the representation of autobiographical memory during the middle decades of the twentieth century. The paper argues that a reciprocal relationship developed between film and memory, in which film was understood as an externalized form of memory, and memory an internalized record of personal experience similar in many respects to film. Memory was often represented as an object-like entity, preserved in stable form within the body, and able to be extracted by the right stimulus or trigger. A particularly important community in which this representation was developed was psychotherapeutic practitioners with psychoanalytic orientations, particularly during and shortly after the Second World War. In special circumstances, therapists and others claimed, records of past life events could be projected, film-like, onto the screen of an individual's conscious, replaying previous experiences in real time. The paper develops a social historical account of this relationship, and reflects on its significance for the history of selfhood in the twentieth century.

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Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
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